Friday, March 4, 2011

Pie Making 101

The recipe for this delicious Chocolate Silk pie comes from the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, TX. A family favorite, someone I know prefers this pie to cake for her birthday.

Any excuse to visit the Hill Country will do, but just thinking about the Blue Bonnet Cafe's pies makes me glad that they sell their cookbook.

The last time I made this pie, I failed to take pictures of each step. I do, however, have pictures of how to make a crust, and that's the part cooks fear most about pie making.

For pie crust,  Betty Crocker's recipe, an old reliable made with ingredients I usually have on hand, is an easy one for beginners. If you have a food processor, the Barefoot Contessa's recipe is outstanding. It makes a buttery, sturdy yet flaky crust, but it requires more time and ingredients.

Instead of rolling the dough on a floured board, I roll the crust between sheets of waxed paper. My 8th grade Home Economics teacher in Beverly Hills, CA taught that the secret of a good pie crust is to handle the dough as little as possible.  If you have to gather the dough into a ball and roll it out again, you might as well start over. The crust will turn out tough, not flaky. 

Here's an idea what the combined flour, shortening and salt look like.
With shortening cut into dry ingredients, the incorporated flour should be smaller than pea-size.
Next add ice cold water a tablespoon at a time (2–3 T. for a one-crust pie).
Stir in water with a fork.
Looks about right.
Gently gather dough into ball.
Here's the secret to aid even the most tentative pie-maker. Place dough ball between 2 sheets of wax paper. You can also use Saran Wrap, but wax paper is easier to handle.
Roll from the center out to the edges, picking up the rolling pin each time.
Peel back the top layer of wax paper and then lay it loosely back in place so that you can flip the flattened dough to the other side. This makes it easier to transfer the dough to the pie pan. The wax paper can tear holes in the crust if you haven't loosened it first. 
Loosely lay the crust into the pan and gently press into place, without stretching the dough.
The crust should extend at least an inch beyond the pie pan. Roll the excess crust to form an edge. You can pinch off excess dough from one place and add to thin spots.
Use thumb and forefinger to form the decorative edge of the crust. Sometimes I use the knuckle on my right hand placed inside and then pinch around it with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. (Here, I'm holding the camera with my right hand.) You should be able to see how rough this crust looks. Not a Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
Next, prick holes in the crust with a fork. Very important to make sure the holes go through the dough as air pockets that form underneath while the crust bakes, if the steam cannot escape, will cause bulges in the crust. The bulges do not go away when the crust cools. Other tips: line the unbaked shell with foil and place pie weights on top of the foil. You can also use dried pinto beans in place of pie weights. Lift the foil with weights out after about 10-minutes baking so the crust can brown all over.
Even a not-so-perfect crust gets forgiveness if the filling is luscious.
The recipe for Chocolate Silk pie follows. 

You need a stand mixer because eggs require 2-minutes beating after each addition.
Resist the temptation to get a spoon and start tasting. It's the butter, no, it's the chocolate, no, it's the texture …
Pour into crust and refrigerate.
This pie is unbaked, so to make sure eggs are safe, before using, I place each egg in a bowl of water to check for cracks. Eggs should be fresh and high quality. The long beating times produce "heat" that cooks the eggs.
You can even freeze this pie and save for later. I can't wait till December to make this again.

Chocolate Silk Pie
Early in the day:
Set out 3 eggs and ¾ cup butter so they are room temperature when you start.
Roll out pie crust. Prick with fork; bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes.  Cool completely.

Melt 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate baking squares in a glass bowl in the microwave being careful not to burn.  Allow chocolate to cool completely.

Cream together for 4 minutes:
1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter (not margarine) at room temperature.

Blend in cooled chocolate and 1 ½ tsp. vanilla.

On medium speed, add eggs one at a time, blending for 2 minutes after each egg.

Put mixture in cooled pie shell and chill several hours or overnight.

Later, whip 2 cups heavy whipping cream, adding a few tablespoons of powdered sugar at the end.  Spoon on top of pie. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls or sift powdered cocoa on top.

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